I was skeptical of this restaurant (previously a buffet selection/takeout place that was terrible), because the outside looks a little tacky, but I was curious because there are a dearth of Shanghainese restaurants that open in Flushing.
The decor/ambiance is bright, cafeteria-like and the music ranges from 60's Chinese folk/pop to more modern 80's Chinese pop. When I first started eating here, the tables looked like they were occupied by old triad dons, wearing gold chains, jade rings, and with expensive bottles of liquor on their tables. Now the mix is more family, Shanghainese people, with good reason. The food is great and the price is right.
I've eaten at You Garden 15+ times now and tried most of their menu, many dishes multiple times. They're knocking it out of the park, easily the best Shanghainese restaurant in Flushing (not a high bar). Their xiao long bao has the most soup of any xiao long bao I've tried in Flushing. The skin is not super thin, but it's within range for a specialist, very pliable, almost never tears (I've eaten several dozen now), flavor is clean, porky. I'd rate it higher than Nan Xiang because Nan Xiang is not consistent anymore, and I like it better than Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao because of the quantity of soup, overall quality. Their xie fen xl bao isn't particularly crabby but still good. Their millet cake is delicious, crunchy, but can be a bit greasy. I've also had their homemade fried wontons (great, made fresh), crispy, deliciously porky, their hong you chao shou. Shanghainese style of Sichuanese dish, the skins are delicate, heat is mild, rich sesame flavor, bright scallions.
Tried their juhua yu which they call yuantiao songzi yu, it's the crisscross filleted fish, fried crispy in sweet and sour sauce with pine nuts, a Shanghainese specialty. Delicious, balanced, lightly sweet, crispy and tender.
Garlic ribs are VERY crispy, intensely garlicky.
Wuxi paigu is another classic, meltingly tender ribs in brown sauce with rice wine. Shi tz tou (lion's head meatballs) are mousselike, big soft balls of pork that are well browned and richly meaty. Another great dish is their braised hoof, similar to ti-pong, slow braised, until the skin is gelatinous, very fatty, unctuous, tender meat. These are classic Shanghainese dishes, prepared with the same style and flavor as my grandmother used to cook. Really textbook recipes.
Their lobuo si bing is the BEST I've had in the USA, East or West coast. If you like this dish, I haven't had it better elsewhere. The delicately layered puff pastry is generously filled with turnip (other restaurants have much flatter versions with less filling, less flaky pastry). The sharpness and slight sweetness of the turnip, flavored with bits of pork, really pair well with the crunchy pastry and sesame seeds. Their sweet version, dou sa si bing has red bean filling and is also the best version I've had. The only issue I have is inconsistency with the frying, sometimes too greasy.
They offer general tso's chicken, but it's not typical, it's more Shanghainese style with emphasis on the sour and slightly sweet. It's made with leg meat and a little fatty, but enjoyable.
Their tofu with preserved egg yolk and shrimp is very savory, but mildly flavored, rich and delicious.
Nian gao (rice cake) with preserved vegetables is standard stir fry, a little greasy. Chicken in wine sauce has very little rice wine flavor, it's a little bland because of that.
There's a little pot of chili sauce on the table that's not intensely spicy, but it's very flavorful.
At the end of the meal they serve you nuomi dessert soup, tender little mounds of glutinous rice in a lightly sweet rice wine broth with goji berry.
Overall, the food is delicious with the caveat that some items can be a bit greasy (inconsistent with technique, recipes great but execution is not tight, one time si tzi tou was almost ethereally soft, mousse like and plump, other times a little less so) my biggest issue is that the quality of the meat they use is OK but could be better, but not at their price point. The restaurant is REALLY inexpensive for the quality. Price to quality ratio is very, very high. The flavors and recipes they use are straight out of a really good Shanghainese restaurant, if their ingredients were better (think Flying Pig Farms, or something more commercial like Kurobuta from Niman Ranch, Du Breton, etc.) and the frying a little more consistent, wow. I'd pay $100 a meal for their recipes with top notch ingredients. But at $20-30 a meal for a ton of food, this restaurant is already in my heavy, heavy rotation.
They include a free steamer of xiao long bao with every meal over $20 to celebrate their restaurant opening, I don't know how long this promotion will last, but it's been in effect for the past month.
Restaurant is cash only. Avg. entree is $10.
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